An ultra-radical Muslim group banned in many countries will promote support for an Islamic superstate in a seminar in Australia this month.
Christian critics claim that the seminar, to be conducted by the group Hizb ut-Tahrir, will be a recruiting ground for extremists.
Hizb ut-Tahrir believes that the caliphate — a part of the world under Muslim rule that, at its peak, ran from Spain to Iran and beyond — is about to be re-established.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and most Muslim countries in the Middle East because of alleged links to terrorism, including the bombers behind the 2005 London attacks.
It is not banned in Australia but is controversial because it opposes democracy and Muslim integration, has tried to recruit young Muslims and ran a lecture last year titled "Israel is an illegal state that Muslims will never accept".
A promotional video for the January 27 Sydney conference on the internet site YouTube.com claims the world was "plunged into darkness" on March 3, 1924, the date when Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk ended the Ottoman caliphate.
"The consequences were unimaginable: death, destruction, chaos, exploitation. After 80 years of the absence of the khilafate (caliphate) the Muslim world has awakened from its slumber, and the umma (the community of all the world's Muslims) is ready to resume its political destiny," the video says.
"From the darkness will emerge a new light."
Some observers have expressed fears that the conference will be used to radicalise Muslims in Australia and recruit extremists.
A spokesman for federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said group members would have to be careful about what they said at the conference and remember that Australia was a harmonious society.
Melbourne Anglican minister Mark Durie, author of a book comparing Islam and Christianity, said in a widely distributed email: "If we wake up in 10 years' time and wonder what went wrong, historians who are able to look back and analyse the rise of radical Islam in Australia will identify events such as this conference as part of the answer."
Dr Durie said yesterday Hizb ut-Tahrir was a major world force for radical political Islam, with links to terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and had strategies for Australia. He said the purpose of the conference was to "inspire and mobilise Muslims to establish Islamic government in the medieval model of sharia law with no concession to other principles such as democracy or human rights".
"They want to legitimise the caliphate as a political aspiration."
Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Wassim Doureihi said the purpose was to highlight the reality of political struggle in the Muslim world and the obligations of Muslims in Australia to raise these issues, and to raise awareness of the caliphate.
"The caliphate is a political reality. It's imminent. There is a burgeoning Islamic revival, and it's only a matter of time before the caliphate is a state," he said.
Asked if he wanted sharia in Australia, Mr Doureihi said yes, by peaceful means.
"Islam is universal. The caliphate would be a role model for the rest of the world."
Mr Doureihi said Hizb ut-Tahrir sought to win hearts and minds but denied that the group in Australia was shadowy or extremist, saying non-Muslims were welcome at the conference.
He said the conference was a forum to discuss concerns and misconceptions and there was nothing extremist about noting the Muslim world's plight or advocating peaceful change.
Original piece is http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/01/08/1168104922239.html